So, here’s the story of our visit to the US Embassy yesterday for the visa interview, which did not go as I was either expecting or hoping. There are lite and full-fat versions.
Went to Embassy. Paid fees. Handed over documents. Had to complete new DS-230 part I because they did not have the one we sent over 2 months ago. Told that “some administrative work” (unspecified) needs to be done. Passport not retained, will be requested when said work is done. Visa approval not yet granted. More waiting.
We set off early for London, got parked in Hammersmith and arrived at the Embassy around 45 minutes before the 8:30 appointment time. As my sponsor Erin was granted access without fuss. Security is airport-style (minus the full-body scanners) and was painless as the queue was very short at that time. At reception I showed my appointment letter and was given a ticket number then we took seats in the waiting room. After a while and around the actual appointment time, my number came up and we went to the relevant window.
The lady went and got a fat file, which turned out to be for someone else, so she went off to get the right one, which was much thinner. The first thing she did was send me off to the cashier to pay the fees, which total $404. I returned to give her the receipts and she had me provide fingerprint scans. I was given a DS-230 to fill in; she told us that they did not have these forms. I was surprised and irked at this; we sent the completed DS-230 part I at the beginning of July a few days after receiving the I-130 approval notice. We have no idea whether they never received this, received it and lost it before processing or received it, processed it and then lost it. Either way, I had to fill out a new one. This is really tedious because it asks for quite a lot of biographic detail and takes time.
While I was working on this Erin handed over the other required documents and answered a few questions. The lady asked me to go and take a seat while I finished the DS-230 part I and return to the window afterwards. I did so a few minutes later, but had to wait 20 minutes or so while she dealt with a group of three people. She then took the newly completed part I and the part II we had brought with us and gave me a courier form with my ticket number and told me to wait to be called again.
After a further of 20-30 minutes my number was called and we went to a different window for part 2 of the interview. Oddly enough, this was first time we dealt with an American – everyone else thus far had been English, apart from a Polish security guy outside the building. The lady had me verify my identity by scanning my fingerprints, then asked me to hold up my right hand and swear that everything I said was the truth. However she then didn’t ask us any questions other when we were planning on travelling. She had me sign the DS-230 part II (which must be done in the presence of a consular officer) and confirmed that she had possession of the documents we supplied earlier and everything looked fine. She was happy with Erin’s printed emails on her application for a job with her company’s San Jose office.
She then told us that “we need to do some administrative work” and would therefore not retain my passport at this stage, but contact me when this work was done and have courier it to them. The visa would then be entered into my passport and returned to me. She declined to comment on what was causing the delay or admin work, but we are assuming it is processing of the new DS-230 part I. She was unable to tell us how long this would take; she seemed to think it would be a couple of weeks but was unwilling to confirm this. I assume that I was visibly disappointed with this news because she went on to tell us not to worry about it and that it all looked good.
I then asked her a couple of questions that I wanted to clarify regarding whether I would be able to travel back and forth to the US on the visa whilst awaiting the arrival of my proper green card. She explained that my visa will act as a temporary green card and I will be a legal permanent resident of the United States, therefore I can travel back and forth as I please (providing of course that I don’t stay outside of the US for more than one year). She also clarified that my green card and Social Security number/card will not be issued until I first enter the US on the visa, for the obvious reason that if for any reason the visa remains unused they do not want spare SSNs floating around. She was unable to say how long the proper green card would take to arrive; she said she had heard of them taking anywhere from six weeks to six months. Regarding the issuing of my social security number, she said this was best discussed with the immigration officer at my port of entry.
Her general demeanour was friendly, helpful and reassuring. She did not seem to think that the “administrative work” presented a problem, certainly she did not give any indication that there was any cause for concern, rather the opposite. So although we left the Embassy with a distinct feeling of anticlimax because we did not receive a decision as we were expecting, we still made progress and we hope it’s merely going to take a couple of weeks extra. Fingers remain crossed.